DETROIT, Mich. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – The top-seeded Green Bay women’s basketball team came through in the clutch to advance to its seventh-straight tournament championship game on Monday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, closing out in-state rival Milwaukee 66-59 in the semifinals of the 2017 Little Caesars Horizon League Championship. The Phoenix will now play the winner of No. 2 seed Wright State and No. 3 seed Detroit Mercy on Tuesday afternoon at 12/11 a.m. CT for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Green Bay (26-5) led by just two at 61-59 with 2:03 remaining in the game, before the stout Phoenix defense forced a Milwaukee (20-11) turnover and junior Allie LeClaire made a pair of clutch free throws. Green Bay would force two turnovers and three missed shots to keep the Panthers scoreless down the stretch, as the team defense came through in crunch time.
Jen Wellnitz, who missed the last game against Milwaukee, was one of the key factors in the game. The high-energy guard tied her career-high with 15 points and also dished out six assists and registered four steals, impacting the game on both ends of the floor.
Green Bay never trailed the entire first quarter and the two teams entered the second quarter tied at 19-19. Milwaukee then opened up with six quick points before Wellnitz finished at the rim to halt the momentum.
Needing a spark before the half and leading by just three, Sam Terry hit a big a 3-pointer with only a second on the clock. Playing for the final shot, Green Bay initially turned the ball over before stealing it back and kicking it to Terry for the 3 from the top of the key.
Green Bay held the lead for the entire second half, led by Jessica Lindstrom’s eight points and eight rebounds in the final 20 minutes alone. Lindstrom recorded her 14th double-double of the season and the 22nd of her career, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Playing all 40 minutes, Mehryn Kraker scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kraker hit a big three and added another clutch layup with under five minutes left in the game and her team needing a basket.
The Phoenix forced the Panthers into 17 turnovers, which it turned into 29 points.
Green Bay is 14-4 all-time in the Horizon League Tournament Championship game and has won 14 of the last 19 championships. With a win, the Phoenix would secure its 17th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
In the Championship game, Green Bay will take the court against No. 3 Detroit Mercy with the game being televised LIVE on ESPNU.